White Willow - Salix alba, click for a larger image, photo licensed for reuse
Photo ©2005 MPF

White Willow - Salix alba
Family - Salicaceae

White Willow is a fast growing native deciduous tree to the UK, Europe and Western Asia, growing in wet areas, river banks and stream sides up to 10-25M (33-80ft) tall with an irregular crown, greyish brown bark on a fissured trunk to 1M (3ft) in diameter producing a tough wood.  Pale coloured lanceolate leaves with a covering of fine silky hairs particularly the underside giving rise to the trees name - White Willow.  The leaves are 5-12cm (2-5in) long and 0.5-1.5cm (0.2-0.6in) wide.  A dioecious species male ♂ and female ♀ flowers as catkins are found on separate trees in the spring and are pollinated by insects.  The male are 4-6cm (1.6-2.4in) long whilst the female are slightly smaller at 3-4cm (1.2-1.6in) but becoming longer as the mature to many small capsules with minute seeds embedded in a white down aiding wind dispersal.  Hybridises readily with other Willows especially Crack Willow - Salix fragilis.

White Willow has many uses, with coppiced trees producing withies for basket-making, charcoal, tannin from the bark was used in the leather industry in the past, and the wood probably more widely known for cricket bats and other uses where a tough, lightweight wood is required.  Several cultivars are grown for their colourful leaves and overall silvery-white foliage.  Willow foliage is the food source for a number of moth species.

FBCP do not advise or recommend that White Willow - Salix alba is eaten or used as an herbal remedy.   Willow bark has been used in the past for pain relief as a tincture of crushed bark in ethanol.  Salicylic acid the component ingregient of Asprin was originally derived from Willow bark.

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